How Do I Keep a Second Point of View Relevant?

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I’m working on a plot about two soldiers on the run trying to expose the corruption of a military organization. And to make it more realistic and get deeper into worldbuilding, I want to add a subplot about a journalist working on the same case and the two quests affecting each other (and eventually meeting).

Thing is, while I’m actually doing fine with the main plot I’m at a loss of how to incorporate the subplot smoothly and keep it relevant.

Is there one or more techniques that could help?

— Greg

Hi Greg,

What you’ve described isn’t actually a subplot; it’s another point-of-view character working on the same plot. A subplot might be if, for instance, one of the two soldiers on the run was also trying to discover their past or find a long-lost loved one. Having your separate POV character also deal with the same plot involving the corrupt military organization, as you’ve described, is definitely the right choice – with both a different character and a subplot, it would feel like two different stories. I also think having a journalist is a great choice that should make interaction pretty easy.

I’m assuming your soldiers are still more important than your journalist. So you’d open with your two soldiers making their initial escape, or something like that. Then in moving to your journalist for the first time (you want to do this in the beginning quarter or so of the story, when readers’ expectations are still being set for the book), your goals should be to inform readers how the journalist POV is connected to your soldiers ASAP. Your journalist may have heard about some incident involved in their escape, and their job is to investigate it.

Then you just keep looking for ways for the separate points of view to influence each other. When you switch to the journalist for the first time, you could reveal that the military organization is telling the press that the soldiers killed someone or committed another serious crime, something that will be important when you go back to the soldier viewpoint. If your journalist is investigating what happened to the soldiers or what the soldiers did, perhaps following their trail, your soldier viewpoint will automatically affect the journalist. In turn, the soldiers and the military organization can react to what the journalist has printed in the paper. Maybe the journalist finds something important the soldiers don’t know and prints it, allowing the soldiers to discover the information and perhaps even seek out the journalist to learn more. The military organization can respond to what’s in the press by switching tactics or putting pressure on the journalist to stop poking around.

Consider an additional meeting between the journalist and the soldiers before the journalist is sure they are the good guys. They can have a tense stand off where the soldiers tell their story and the journalist isn’t sure whether to believe it. They go their separate ways, and then the journalist finds out the soldiers were telling the truth. This way you can have them in a scene together before you’re ready for them to be on the same team.

I hope that gives you the ideas you need.

Happy writing!

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  1. Cay Reet

    Since both the soldiers and the journalist are working on the same plot, it’s clear that the journalist is not part of a sub-plot. I agree with Oren that you need to introduce the main viewpoint (the soldiers) first, but also need to introduce the secon viewpoint (the journalist) early on, too, so it’s clear the two viewpoints belong to the same plotline and have connections. But then, it can be a very good idea to have the journalist, because, from my experience, intrigue plots always profit from giving the reader several different viewpoints with different information.

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      That’s a good thought, Cay, but just for the record this is Chris’ answer, not mine.

    • Amanda

      I would also add the suggestion that you could use the journalist’s POV to add suspense to the plot later. Maybe the journalist will find something that the soldiers don’t know, something that can complicate their position and blindside them in the future. So, the soldiers won’t know what is happening to them, but the reader will… and we can even foresee disaster if the soldiers make a decision that they deem rational, but we know can lead them to great danger because of the things we know.

  2. Lucy

    On such a small amount of info, I’m probably jumping to wild conclusions … but I think it’s possible you might not be as interested in your journalist as you are in the soldiers (you say you’re adding them for the worldbuilding and to keep it realistic, rather than because you have this character you really want to include). If you are interested in the character, you’ll be keen to write them and more excited about coming up with ideas for their parts of the plot. If you aren’t interested in them, it’s always going to be a struggle to write, and probably not much fun to read, either.

    If this is the case, you don’t need to ditch them, just spend some quality time working on the character – getting to know them properly, figuring out what makes them tick, and finding out what elements you need to add to make them enjoyable to write. Who is this person? Why are they the one working on this story? Is there a particular reason they are invested in it? Corruption in the military is going to be a pretty dangerous story to investigate, what reasons will they have to stick their neck out if / when it becomes necessary?

    Also, maybe do a bit of research into what it’s like to be a journalist ( … unless you are one, I guess???) – it can be a very different job from the standard version you tend to see in films or books, and more realistic details may give you further ideas.

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